What Marketers Can Learn from SXSW 2017

Another SXSW has come and gone, but not without making a splash!  While there were reports of brands reducing their presence at SXSW this year, there were plenty of awesome activations of all sizes and scope.  Here are 3 takeaways that ALL brands can use moving forward with all brand activations:

·       Stick to what you’re good at

·       Focus on the goal, not being ‘the biggest’

·       Collaborate

1.       Stick to what you’re good at

If your brand is not an event-production company that offers PR/media outreach services, don’t take that piece on yourself unless you have an internal team solely dedicated to do just that.  A brand will spend more time, money, and resources taking that piece on than if they sponsored an existing event that is going to handle everything from securing the venue, to PR/media coverage, to VIP/influencer attendees. 

Think about it like you would a wedding.  People try to save money by using a venue they have access to (like their home) or not hiring a wedding planner.  You need to rent tables, chairs, shoot – what if it rains?  Anything require a permit?  Will the HOA freak out over the number of cars parked throughout the neighborhood?  Fast forward to the big day, the amount of time, money, resources, and gray hair…often not a huge savings when all is said and done! 

Sure, a bit different than what brands’ needs are whether producing or participating in an event, but the point is that the brand should focus what they know and leave event-related execution to the professionals.  You’ll be happy with the results and have just as much creative input as you would if you built it from scratch (but without the headache!).

2.       Focus on the goal, not being ‘the biggest’ 

Every activation wants to be the best, but that doesn’t mean the biggest.  Having the most bodies does not guarantee the best experience.  A well-executed event can be just as impactful as the largest event on the block.  Small and intimate can be just as effective, and can even exude a sort of “exclusivity” making it more desirable.

Compare it to your average Friday night.  You might go to the most popular club in town – line out the door, when you finally get in it takes 15+ minutes to get a drink, people everywhere, no available seating, your song never gets played on the jukebox, and someone’s flying elbow just spilled your drink.  As far you’re concerned, the most popular club in town is also THE WORST.  But that establishment down the street – you walk right in, same drink, song actually plays on the jukebox, and you can even snag a pool table or darts.  Same goes for industry events.  If the experience is lackluster or, on the flipside, overpowering, the vibe felt by the attendee is negative.

Focus on the goal – what is the experience you want the attendee to have and how can it be best executed?  And if you don’t know how it can be best executed, work with the event-production teams.  Together you can create the desired experience, keeping the brand’s goals as the main focal point.  The right PR and media plan can amplify the impact of any event and puts your brand in a larger conversation. 

3.       Collaborate

Have an idea, but need more support to make it come to fruition?  Whether it’s bringing on brand partners to take on some of the financial burden or a creative collaboration, strategic partnerships are a great way to focus on what you know best and leverage others’ resources, skill sets, and expertise to execute a top quality activation.                           

A great case study from this year’s SXSW was when Casper, Tesla, and The Standard Hotel teamed up for a unique hospitality activation that also capitalized on #NationalNapDay.  Festivals and conferences can be exhausting.  Whether you needed a place to stay that night or a quick cat nap to recharge for the rest of the day, Casper, Tesla, and The Standard Hotel through the One Night App had your back!  Casper promoted their mattresses, Tesla was the transportation provider in a city where Uber and other rideshare services are not available, and The Standard Hotel booked their newly renovated boutique hotel through the One Night App for last minute bookings (and at an incredible rate, especially when a big festival is taking place!).

If each brand tried to activate this on their own, it would require a large chunk of a marketing budget to execute, but by leveraging partnerships, collaborating, and sharing the load this was a cost-effective activation that required more planning than anything else!  The ROI was through the roof, as the hotel and other services were booked as soon as 3pm struck, but the additional buzz during the conference and with media coverage was the icing on the cake!

SXSW activations are always innovative, but the basics are the foundation that allow for those unique and creative activations to come to life.  Keep them in mind for your next event or marketing plan:

1.       Stick to what you’re good at

2.       Focus on the goal, not being ‘the biggest’

3.       Collaborate

STILETTO has worked with event-production teams for numerous lifestyle events, from New York Fashion Week to Music Festivals to Celebrity-Hosted VIP Events.  Let STILETTO guide you through your next activation.